A Korean radish is a type of Asian vegetable used in many Asian dishes, but perhaps most prominently in those in Korean cuisine. The vegetable is a member of the daikon family of radishes, and is usually distinguished by its rounded, oblong shape. Korean radishes usually resembles potatoes, while most other daikon varieties look more like thick carrots. Cooks can prepare the Korean varietals raw, cooked, or pickled. Dishes as diverse as soups, dressings, and savory puddings can all incorporate elements of the vegetable.
Like all members of the daikon family, the Korean radish is native to East Asia. It is cultivated most commonly as a crop on the Korean peninsula, which is where it derives its common name. The vegetable is frequently sold as lo bok, particularly within Asia.
Lo bok has a thick peel that is typically striated, beginning as light green at the stem end but transitioning to a creamy white at the root. It grows underground as a tuber, and is generally harvested in the spring and early summer months. Selective gardening has led to a number of Korean radish hybrids capable of year-round harvest, however, and greenhouse growth also yields more continuous crop seasons. The radish’s popularity in many aspects of Korean cooking typically produces a constant demand. As a result, the radish is commercially farmed throughout Korea and in several places in China.
There are many ways of preparing Korean radish, though kimchi is among the most popular. Kimchi, sometimes also written kimchee, is a spicy, pickled dressing that can be made with a range of different vegetables. The natural back heat and spicy finish of the Korean radish makes it well suited for inclusion. Radish kimchi usually involves small chunks or strips of peeled radish that has been left to steep in a peppery brine for a number of days or weeks. The finished product can be sealed and stored for years as a preserve.
Korean radishes can also be added to soups and stews to lend substance. The radish is made mostly of water, but contains a number of useful fibers and starches as well. Adding radish chunks can make even the most basic broths more substantial and nutritionally significant, and pureeing the vegetable can add texture and character.
The radish is also commonly eaten raw. The peel is normally removed before raw consumption, as it tends to be quite bitter. Grated radish can be added to yogurt to create something of an all-purpose pudding or thick dressing to accompany a variety of dishes. Thin slices can also be served on salads, or even eaten as a snack, usually with a bit of salt.